Part 2 out of 3
"You can't leave here just at present," said the detective. "You will
remain in custody until morning."
"Why morning?" asked Ned, with alight laugh.
"Because your accuser will be here then."
"Why didn't you say something of an accuser before?" asked Ned.
"It was not necessary."
"What does the accuser say?"
"He only warns us against delivering important papers to a youth
answering your description."
"Now I understand why all this rumpus has been kicked up!" cried the
marine officer. "The man who warned you is Lieutenant Rae?"
The detective nodded.
"Then he is causing us to be delayed for purposes of his own," the
officer stormed. "He aims to get to Peking in advance of us. We must
be permitted to depart immediately."
He moved toward the door, but the detective stood in his way. Without a
word he seized the fellow by the shoulder whirled him around, put his
beery face to the wall, and passed out of the room. Ned was about to
follow him when the strange attitude of the detective caught his
attention and he stood waiting while a scuffle on the outside told of a
physical complication there.
"Much good that break will do him," said the detective, straightening
out his twisted coat collar. "He will find a squad of police at the
"European police?" asked Ned.
"Native police," with a snarl of rage as the commotion in the outer room
Knowing that it would be no trouble at all to secure the release by any
American officer taken into custody by Chinese police, Ned turned to the
window and looked out on the court. He understood, too, that his own
arrest would mean a long delay in prison while his identity was being
established. So he thought best to keep out of the squabble the
hot-headed officer had engaged in.
How sane this decision was only those foreign citizens who had been
arrested and cast into prison in China or Russia can appreciate. While
an accredited officer of a foreign power may almost instantly regain his
liberty, a plain citizen, such as Ned was forced to appear, might be
kept in jail for any number of days, weeks, or months.
The detective stood glaring at the two boys for an instant, as if
anxious to inflict physical punishment upon them, but, as they remained
at the window and said no more to him, he was obliged to take a
different course. After rapping out several insulting observations
concerning school children who ought to be spanked and put to bed, he
flung himself out of the room.
"You saw Hans?" asked Ned, then.
Jimmie opened his eyes in amazement.
"Did you?" he asked.
"I saw the tousled head you saw," replied Ned.
"I thought you were looking another way," commented the little fellow.
"That was Hans, all right.'
"But why does he remain inactive? He knows there is something doing
down here, else he would not have shown the signal of warning. He ought
to be out of that window by this time."
"This is a country of hard knots," laughed Jimmie. "They may have tied
up his fat little trotters."
In spite of the serious situation, Ned laughed.
"The tying up in this case makes it seem like a cheap drama on the lower
East Side in New York," he said.
"I think I might get up to that window," Jimmie suggested.
"How?" asked Ned.
"By the lower window frames an' castings. If you'll manage to keep the
Chinks off me I'll try."
"It is worth trying," Ned mused.
The other windows opening on the court were now closed. The sleepy
natives, possibly doped with opium, had wearied of watching the figures
in the rear room of the telegraph office and tumbled back into bed, or
back on such miserable heaps of dirty matings as they chose to call
The sounds of conflict had already died out in the front office, and
another visit from the evil-faced detective was momentarily expected, so
Jimmie was urged to make the proposed attempt to reach Hans at once.
He passed out of the window, crossed the beaten earth floor of the
court, and began to climb. Ned was pleased to see that he had little
difficulty in ascending to the window. Once there he heard him rap on
the pane. There was a pause, and then the boy pushed up the sash and
Ned was glad to see that the boy had the good judgment to draw the sash
down, as soon as he was in the room. What he would discover there the
watcher had no idea.
He might find Hans there under guard. He might discover, when it was
too late, that the German had been, unwillingly, used as a decoy by
cunning natives into whose hands he might have fallen.
Still, there were the signals! The natives could not have known of the
Boy Scout system of warnings, and Hans would certainly have volunteered
nothing in the way of allurement.
He watched the window for what seemed to him to be a very long time.
The pane remained dark.
"If the lad finds the situation favorable," Ned thought, "he may not
return here at all. I should have instructed him to leave the room by
the main stairway, if possible, and return to the marines. It would
look comfortable, just now, to see that file of bluecoats marching into
the telegraph office."
However, there was now no help for the omission, and Ned waited with
varying emotions for some sign from the window. None came, but
presently the door of the rear room was opened and the detective
"Where is the other prisoner?" he demanded, looking keenly about the
room. "He was here not long ago. Where is he?"
"Didn't you see him crowd out with the marine officer?" asked Ned.
"He was here after that fellow left," was the reply. "But he can't
escape from the building," he added, "for every avenue is guarded, and
the chap the cablegram belongs to has just asked for it!"
TRICKS THAT WERE VAIN
Ned eyed the bullying detective keenly. He did not believe that the
cablegram had been demanded by another. That was only a pretext on the
part of his enemies to make their attitude of delay appear more
reasonable. If, as was claimed, the message was now claimed by two, the
holders would certainly be justified in using great caution in
He did not believe, either, that the telegraph officials had been nervy
enough to resort to police protection. That would be to bring the
matter into the courts, and he did not think those who were opposing him
would care for that.
"You are not telling the truth," he said, coolly, to the detective. "No
one here could honestly claim the message, because no one in Tientsin,
previous to my arrival, knew there was such a message here, if I except
the telegraph people and the man who sent it. If a claimant has shown
up, he is acting under instructions from you."
"You are deceiving yourself!" snarled the other.
"Where is Captain Martin, of the marines?" asked Ned, not caring to
dispute the point. "If you have arrested him, you'll be having his men
after you before morning."
"You mean the men you left in the cornfield?"
"Certainly, the United States marines."
"Then you don't know that they have gone back to Taku?"
"No; neither do you," replied Ned. This was too cheap!
"But, they have," insisted the detective. "At least, they have
disappeared from the camp in the cornfield."
"You seem pretty well posted as to our doings," said the boy.
"We are pretty well informed as to all crooks who come here," was the
"What are you going to do about delivering the cablegram?" Ned asked,
ignoring the insult.
"Wait until morning and deliver it to the American consul."
"In America," Ned said, with a provoking smile, "we elect men of your
slant of mind to the Ananias club."
"You'll see," was the reply. "In the meantime, you are in custody."
Where was Jimmie? Had he escaped from the building, or was he detained
in the room he had surreptitiously entered? If he had indeed escaped,
would he have the good sense to hasten to the camp instead of trying to
assist his chum single-handed?
Ned asked himself these questions, but could find no answer. He saw
that the detective was not inclined, not yet desperate enough, to march
him off to prison, however, and took courage from the fact. If he could
secure a short delay all might yet be well.
Directly the assistant manager entered the room, frowning and red of
face. Ned saw that something, perhaps something of importance to
himself, was in progress on the outside.
"The American consul is out there," he exclaimed, storming about the
"That's fine!" cried Ned. "I presume I can see him?"
The detective glared at the boy and shook his head.
"No, you can't," he declared. "You'll stay here."
"And in the meantime you'll tell him that I have gone away?"
"We'll tell him what we choose."
Ned made a quick dash for the door, tipped the assistant manager over a
broken-backed chair which stood in the way, and passed into the outer
office. The detective grabbed at him as he sped past, but the boy
eluded the ham-like hands which were thrust forward.
There were three persons in the office, when Ned bolted into it. These
were the operator, the American consul, and Hans! The German grinned in
an apologetic way as Ned hastily greeted him.
The American consul was a pleasant-faced gentleman of middle age. He
was dressed in rather sporty clothes, and there was just a hint of a
swagger of importance in his walk and manner as he extended his hand to
Ned. Dressler-Archibald Hewitt Dressler, to be exact--was a pretty fair
sample of the keen, open-hearted corn-belt politician rewarded with a
foreign appointment for rounding up the right crowd at the right time.
Ned was glad to see that the consul recognized him as the lad in whose
interest he had been pulled out of bed. He took the official's
outstretched hand and shook it warmly.
"I never was so glad to see any person in my life!" Ned exclaimed, while
Hans stood by with that bland German smile on his face.
"Oh, we'll have this mess straightened out in no time," the consul said.
"These people," with a gesture toward the operator, the assistant
manager, and the detective, "are all right. They mean to do the fair
and honorable thing, but they have troubles of their own. We'll have
this all ironed out in no time."
"This kid is an impostor!" shouted the detective.
"No hard names, please," said the consul. "Let us get at the facts of
the case. You claim to be Ned Nestor?" turning to the boy.
"That is my name, sir."
"And you claim a cablegram which is here? A cablegram in cipher--the
cipher code of the Secret Service of the United States government?"
"Yes, it would naturally be in cipher."
"You have the key to the code?"
"Be careful, young man," laughed the consul, "for I was in the Secret
Service department before I came here, and know the code."
"I'm glad you do," replied Ned.
"Hand me the cablegram," ordered the consul, turning to the assistant
The detective stepped forward with a frown on his face. He glared at
the consul and at Ned for a moment, and then broke out:
"You can't have it unless you will promise not to reveal its contents to
"Can't I?" said the consul, coolly. "Hand me the cablegram."
The operator and the assistant manager drew back. The consul stood for
an instant regarding them angrily.
"One, two, three!" he said. "At the word three, pass it over!"
"Goot sphort, dot feller!" whispered Hans.
During the dead silence which followed Ned watched the face of the
consul for some sign of weakening, but found none. He knew that he had
come upon an official who would stand by his guns, no matter what took
There was a little crowd in front of the office, and half a dozen faces
were pressed against the windows and the glass panel of the door. Ned
thought he saw a face there he had last seen in the old house at Taku
where he had been captured. The fellow carried a long cicatrice on his
"What do you mean by coming in here and giving orders?" demanded the
detective. "I'll put you out if the manager says the word."
Ned, standing close to Hans, felt the muscles of the German's great arm
swell under the sleeve. Hans was evidently anticipating trouble.
"Will you deliver the cablegram?" asked the consul.
"I will not."
As the assistant manager spoke the detective reached his hand up to the
electric light switch. Ned saw in an instant what his intention was.
If the room should be suddenly thrown into darkness, the operator might
escape with the cablegram.
The consul, too, saw what was meditated and sprang forward. The
detective struck at him, but before his blow reached its intended mark,
Hans struck and the detective went down as suddenly as if he had been
hit with an ax. Then, from unseen places, from beneath counters and out
of closets, came a horde of Chinamen. The room was full of them.
"Soak um!" cried Hans.
The German was about to adopt his own suggestion by passing a blow out
to the nearest Chinaman when the consul stepped before him. For an
instant the threatening natives stepped back. The attacking of the
American consul was a thing to be seriously considered.
"Once more!" warned the consul. "Give me the cablegram."
At a motion from the assistant manager the brown men closed
threateningly about the American again. There was malice in their eyes
as they pressed closer and closer.
"This looks like another Boxer uprising!" exclaimed the consul. "Mr.
Nestor," he added, "if you will assemble yourself at my back, and our
German friend will stand by, we'll give 'em a run for their white alley.
Hit hard and often."
There is no knowing what might have happened then had not an
interruption fell. Ned saw the crowd at the door vanish, and the next
instant the friendly popping of motorcycles rang a chorus in the air.
Then came the rattle of guns and sabers, and a line of bluecoats stood
before the door. At their head stood Jimmie, wrinkling his freckled
nose as if for dear life.
Ned sprang to the door and opened it.
"Quick!" he cried. "Don't let a man now in the room get away."
"Where is Captain Martin, the officer in charge?" asked one of the men.
"The Chinks can tell you," Ned answered. "Close up at the doors," he
went on, gazing about excitedly, "so that no one can leave."
This was done instantly. In fact, the natives and the men of the
telegraph office were not in a fighting mood now. The guns and sabers
of the marines had brought them to a peace-loving state of mind!
They huddled about in the center of the room, the natives milling around
like cattle in a storm. The assistant manager pushed out of the press
and handed the consul the cablegram.
"Understand that I am doing this under protest," he said. "Your conduct
in invading my office with armed men shall be reported."
"I shall welcome any investigation," the consul replied, with a smile,
"because I want to know something of your motives in doing what you have
done to-night. You know very well that the cablegram is of no
importance to any person except the one to whom it is addressed. I can
read the code, it is true, but you doubtless overlooked the fact that I
have received such dispatches here. So, let us look at the matter in a
reasonable light. What inducements were offered you to keep the
cablegram away from this young man? Speak up!"
"You are insulting"' gasped the assistant manager.
"Come down to cases!" commanded the consul.
"I don't understand your Bowery slang."
"How much money was offered you to hold this message?"
There was no answer, but the operator glanced slyly in the direction of
the consul with a frightened look in his eyes.
"Were you to withhold the message altogether, or were you merely to
delay this young man?"
"You are insulting!" repeated the other.
"Who bribed you?" came the next question, snapped out like the crack of
"You have the message," the assistant manager said. "Get out."
"Only for the marines you'd put me out!" laughed the consul.
"Indeed I would!"
Hans made a threatening gesture toward the fellow and he hastened to the
protection of the counter.
"My office is only a short distance away," said the consul, turning to
Ned. "We may as well go there and size this extraordinary situation up.
I hardly know what to make of it."
"There is one thing you, perhaps, do not understand," Ned said, "and
that is that Captain Martin, in charge of this squad, has been taken
into custody by order of the detective Hans knocked out a moment ago."
The consul's face turned red with anger. He seized the assistant
manager by the shoulder and shook him, over the counter, as a dog shakes
"Where is he?" he demanded. "Tell your hirelings to bring him here, not
soon, but now."
"He assaulted me!" complained the manager.
"Produce him! One, two, three. At the third word he comes!"
Obeying a motion from the frightened man, a native opened a door back of
the counter and Captain Martin was pushed out into the room, smiling and
evidently enjoying the situation.
"I could have butted out at any moment," he said, "for these Chinks are
not fighters, but I heard what was going on out here and thought I'd let
events shape themselves. If I had been out here a short time ago I am
afraid I should have made trouble for myself and for you."
"It is nice to watch a game that you can't lose at," laughed the consul.
"Come along, with your men, to my office. This lad wants a chance to
read his message."
"Sure," was the reply. "I want to know how that Dutchman come to bring
you here, and how my men managed to get here just in time. There are
mysteries to explain. What?" he added, with a laugh.
"I guess we'll have to wait for explanations until we know what is in
this message," Ned said. "Come along to the office, Mr. Consul, for we
have lost a lot of time already."
"I am anxious to know what the message contains," said the consul.
THE DARK ROAD TO PEKING
Half an hour later the American consul, Captain Martin, and Ned sat in a
private room at the consulate. The marines and Jimmie and Hans were in
the large outer room.
The cablegram from Washington lay open on a table with a translation by
its side. It read:
"Proceed to Peking immediately and report to the American ambassador.
Keep within reach of the flying squadron. Avoid complications with the
natives. Look out for plots to delay your party. Important that you
should reach Peking at once. Wire conditions."
"Not much news in that," said Ned. "Guess we've met all the trouble the
Washington people anticipated."
"Shall you go on to-night?" asked the Captain.
"It is a dark, rainy night," the consul warned, "and the highways of
China are none too safe, even in daylight, for American messengers who
are insufficiently guarded."
"We'll look out for our part of the game," Captain Martin laughed.
"We'll, keep close together," advised the consul. "You will meet
trouble on the way. The men who bribed the telegraph people will not
get into the discard now. You'll find their hirelings waiting out on
the dark road to Peking."
Ned pointed to the dispatch.
"We've got to go," he said. "I can't tell you how thankful I am to have
met a true American here," he added, extending his hand to the consul.
"I shall tell the story of to-night in the State department at
Washington when I get back."
"Well, get it straight," laughed the consul. "Say that a blundering
German boy, who said he was a Boy Scout from Philadelphia, nearly
dragged me out of bed about midnight and informed me that other Boy
Scouts were in trouble at the telegraph office. I knew that Ned was
expected here, and so lost no time in getting down. That's all. The
marines did the rest."
"Save for that beautiful bluff of yours!" laughed Ned. "But how in the
Dickens did Hans ever get to you? How did he know where to go? How did
he get to Tientsin, anyway?"
"Give it up!" smiled the consul. "You might as well ask me who got the
marines out just in the nick of time."
"Jimmie did that, of course," replied Ned. "I think I know all about it
now," he added. "We saw Hans in a room opening on the court. The
little fellow burglarized the window and found Hans. I don't know how
Hans got there, but Jimmie found him, anyway. Then the kid told his
story and Hans went to the consul and Jimmie went after the flying
squadron. I have a notion that this is the way it came about."
In this supposition Ned was exactly right, for Jimmie had found Hans in
the room off the court and the two had planned their movements just as
Ned explained. The only mystery was as to how Hans got to the Tientsin
house and the room where he was found.
"We'll learn all about that in time," Ned added. "Now we must be off.
By the way, I wonder where Jack and Frank are? I haven't seen them
since I left the camp. In the rush of events I quite forgot to ask for
"Just wait until I talk with one of the boys out here," the Captain
said. "Probably Jimmie is already telling them of his adventures."
But when the door was opened and Jimmie questioned he opened his eyes
wide in wonder. The Captain drew him into the private room.
"Say," the boy said, excitement in voice and manner, "didn't you leave
Frank and Jack at the camp when you left?"
"Why, I left when you did," was the reply. "They were there then."
Jimmie sprang to the door and beckoned the second in command into the
room. By this time both Ned and the consul were on their feet.
"Where did you leave Frank and Jack?" asked Ned, as the officer entered
"They left us," replied the officer, with hesitation. "We made our beds
of blankets and tumbled in, leaving one man on guard. When I turned in
the boys were in their bunks. When Jimmie awoke us, they were nowhere
to be seen. They probably sneaked off to have a look at Tientsin by
night--and a beautiful time they will have."
"Didn't you see them when you went back?" asked Ned of Jimmie.
"No; I looked for them, and one of the marines told me they had gone on
ahead. I'm goin' out an' dig 'em up!"
"You'll make a sweet fist of digging them up in this man's town, at this
hour of the night," the consul declared, anxiety showing on his face.
"You'll have to leave them, Mr. Nestor," he went on, "and I'll rake the
city with a fine tooth comb but I'll find them."
Ned hesitated. There was the cablegram on the table. A delay of an
hour or two might not prove serious, but this search for Frank and Jack
might occupy days, if not weeks!
It was inconceivable that the boys, disregarding all instructions from
the Captain and all warnings from Ned, should have stolen off into the
city for a night ramble. They both knew how much depended on the party
keeping together and keeping prepared for action.
"They must have had some reason for leaving the camp," Ned said, after a
long pause. "They never would have gone away without some object other
than amusement, or love of adventure in their minds."
Captain Martin went to the door and stepped out into the main office,
facing the marines.
"Boys," he said, in as matter-of-fact tone as he could assume, "what did
Frank and Jack say when they left the camp?"
Nine of the men looked up in wonder, but the tenth hastened to answer
"Not a word," he said. "I was on guard, and I saw a young chap come
into the little bit of light there was about the old house where we were
"Who was it?" Ned interrupted.
The marine shook his head.
"I didn't ask him who he was," he said. "He asked where the boys were,
and said he was a Boy Scout from Boston, and wanted to see some one from
home. I knew that the lads would be as glad to see him as he would be
glad to see them, and showed him where they had bunked down in a little
dog-house of a shack just outside the house."
"And they went away with this fellow?" asked Ned, anxious to get the
story in as few words as possible. "Why didn't you notify the officer
then in charge of the squad?"
"I didn't think it was necessary," was the reply. "Well, the kid went
to the shack where Frank and Jack were, and I saw them talking together
there for a few minutes. Then I saw the three of them pass through the
circle of light, walking toward the city, and that's all I know about
it. I wasn't under orders to tell them when to go, or where to go, or
when not to go. It wasn't for me to interfere."
"Bonehead!" exclaimed Jimmie.
The marine glanced up at the little fellow with a frown.
"Don't you go to abusing me," he said. "I won't stand for it. I was
raised a pet!" he added, with a smile, as the boy grinned.
"Stop that!" commanded the Captain, sharply. "If you have told all you
know about the matter you may go."
"'Wait," Ned said, as the marine moved toward the door, "I would like to
ask a question. Would you know this lad you speak of if you should see
"I don't think so. It was dark, and he didn't look me squarely in the
"That's all," Ned said, turning to the consul. "You'll do what you can
to find them?" he asked.
"Sure I will!"
"I can't remain and help you," Ned went on, and there was a tremble in
his voice. "I've got my work to do."
"And we'll start right away," Ned continued, "if you are ready, Captain.
We ought to be in Peking early in the morning."
"It is a bad road," the consul said, "and you'll find, echoes of the
scrap you had here waiting for you along the way. In the language of
the cablegram, keep together!"
When all were mounted there were still two vacant cycles--those the
missing boys had ridden. Ned pointed to one and spoke to Hans:
"Can you ride?"
"Then you may take one of the machines and come along with us."
Hans sprang onto one of the motorcycles just as he had observed the
others do. Under the impetus of the leap the machine trundled along for
a few feet and tipped over, landing Hans on his back with the rear wheel
scraping acquaintance with his nose.
"Ouch!" he shouted. "Dake him off! He bites! Vot issit if I hand
While the others were laughing at the plight of the German, he made an
effort to arise and the machine promptly slid down an incline and
sparked and gyrated until Hans' hair fairly stood on end with fright.
"Catch heem!" he shouted. "Catch heem! He runs py the road avay!
Dunner! Vot a streets!"
"You mustn't tickle his ribs with your heels when you get on," advised
Jimmie. "That always makes him buck. It is a wonder he didn't tramp
you when you were down."
"Holy schmoke!" cried Hans. "Vot a nose I vill haf! Me for the walks
"I guess you'll have to give up going with us"' laughed Ned. "You may
remain with the consul until we return. And help him hunt Frank and
Jack, will you?"
Hans willingly agreed to this, and, with many handshakes and well-wishes
from the consul, the boys were off for Peking. By this time the streets
were rather quiet, although they knew that before they could pass beyond
the limits of the great, sprawling town with its million of inhabitants
dawn would be showing in the sky.
The swift ride through the city was a revelation to the American boys.
All was strange with an atmosphere of age and decay. The habitations,
save those occupied by foreigner--and these were grouped together--were
mostly old and mean. The streets were in bad condition--worse than
usual because of the softening effects of the rain--and the lights were,
in places, infrequent.
Watchmen patrolling the thoroughfares in the idle manner peculiar to all
alleged guardians of the night, gazed menacingly at the machines as they
whirled by, talking in their spark language, as Jimmie expressed it, but
the uniforms kept them at a respectful distance. Here and there were
little tea shops, and before these were groups of natives, circled close
It seemed to Ned like a ride through a cemetery, the occupants of which
had been awakened to life for an instant and would go back to their
graves and their dreamless sleep again as soon as the machines had
passed. The weight of ten thousand centuries seemed to hang over the
There was a faint line of dawn in the direction of the Yellow Sea when
the boys came to the suburbs of Tientsin. Before them lay nearly eighty
miles of rough road to the capital city. With good luck, they figured
that they could make that in four hours.
Now, at dawn, the road which curved like a ribbon before them, started
into life. From field and village streamed forth natives carrying and
drawing all kinds of burdens. In that land the poor are obliged to be
early astir, and even then the reward of their labors is small.
It was autumn, and the produce of the field was ripe for barter. There
were loads attached to horses and loads drawn in carts; there were
'rickshaws, and bundles on backs, and on long poles carried over bent
The strange procession of the motorcycles and the marines caused many a
surprised halt in the procession of industry. Chinamen stood at one
side while the steel horses shot by them, and then gathered in little
groups by the wayside to discuss this newest invention of the foreign
The sun rose in a cloudless sky and the earth steamed under its rays,
sending back in eddying mist the rain which had poured upon her with
such violence the night before. It would be a hot day, notwithstanding
the lateness of the season, and the eyes of the boys soon turned to a
shaded grove not far from the highway.
"Me for breakfast!" Jimmie declared, and the marines looked as if the
lad had echoed their own thoughts.
"We may as well halt a little while," Captain Martin said to Ned, "as my
boys are beginning to look empty. They have had a hard night of it, and
we can't afford to cultivate any grouches!"
Ned, although he was anxious to go forward, saw good judgment in this
and ordered a halt. In five minutes little fires were burning in the
grove and the odor of steaming coffee soon rose softly with the mists of
THE MYSTICISM OF THE EAST
"You remember what the consul said regarding trouble on the road to
Peking?" asked Ned of Captain Martin as the two took seats under a tree
not far from the cooking fires.
"Yes, and I wondered at his expressing such gloomy predictions. He gave
me quite a scare."
"I think I understand, now, why he did it," Ned said, with a smile. "He
was following instructions."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I mean that he had been communicated with by the Washington office,
during the day, and given instructions."
"To scare you?"
"No; to keep me up to the mark in caution."
"I don't think you needed that."
"Well," Ned went on, "this is a queer case. At first I could not make
up my mind why the Secret Service people insisted on my making this trip
to Peking on a motorcycle, guarded by soldiers like a passenger in time
of war. Now I think I know."
"Then you have the advantage of me," said the officer. "I've been
thinking that over quite a lot, and the answer is still to find."
"Unless I am mistaken," Ned replied, "I am expected to do my work on the
way to Peking."
"Come again!" smiled the Captain.
"In other words," replied Ned, "I'm set up on a motorcycle as a mark for
the diplomats of Europe to shoot at."
"Then I must be a mark, also," grumbled the Captain.
"Exactly. How do you like it?"
"Oh, it isn't so bad!" smiled the other, won into better humor by the
laughing face of the boy. "But why should the Secret Service department
put you in such peril?"
"It is my notion," Ned hastened to say, in defense of his superior
officers, "that they give me credit for sense enough to take care of
myself. The same with regard to you."
"It seems to me," Ned interrupted, "that the department is up against a
tough proposition. The matter is so delicate that no foreign government
can be accused of mixing this conspiracy for Uncle Sam. What remains to
do, then, is to spot the tools being used by the power that is most
"That's good sense."
"Well, we can't spot them in Washington, nor in Tientsin, nor yet in the
American embassy at Peking. Where, then, but on the road--on the road
where they are striving with all their might to block the progress of
the agent who is trying to land them?"
Captain Martin mused a moment and then broke into a laugh.
"And so," he said, "you think we are spread out along this road for the
conspirators to grab off?"
"If they can, of course; but that is not stating the case right. We are
spread out along the road to Peking to catch the men who will try to
stop us. See? We are here to watch for those who will try to catch us,
and to catch them! What do you think of that?"
"Clever!" exclaimed the Captain.
"The system is an old one in detective work," Ned explained. "It is no
unusual thing for an officer to permit a prisoner to escape in order
that be may be traced to his confederates. Only this case is somewhat
different, of course. We don't know exactly who the criminals we, but
we expect them to reveal their identity by their own acts."
"Then we'd better be on double guard?"
"Of course. You know how the consul reiterated the warning he gave us.
He couldn't tell us that it was the notion of the Secret Service
department that we would be attacked on the way to Peking, but he could
tell us to look out, and he did."
"Perhaps he thought the truth would frighten you off?"
"Perhaps," laughed Ned.
"Well, I'm glad to have the puzzle solved," Captain Martin said. "Now
we know just what to look out for. When do you expect to meet with
these foxy chaps?"
"They will appear in due time, if I am right," Ned replied. "Look out
there on the road," he added, "they may be coming now."
The Captain looked and saw four men in the garb of priests, approaching
the grove. Their robes were long and of a dirty slate color, and there
was a great star on the breast of the man in the lead.
"A queer bunch," the officer said, "but not diplomats. They are Taoist
priests, and the chances are that they have a tumble-down temple in this
vicinity. They are not very popular in China just now."
"Never heard of them," Ned said, watching the men turn from the road
into the grove.
"As you know," the officer explained; "I have been on Chinese stations a
long time. Well, I've taken a fancy to study up the religion of the
people. Or, to put it right, the three religions. First, there is the
Confucian religion, which is not really a religion, for it does not deal
with the spiritual. It is a philosophy, which teaches the brotherhood
"Second, there is Buddhism, with its ruined temples and begging monks.
This religion is an importation from India. Aged people and women are
its chief devotees.
"Third, there is Taoism, scarcely less popular that Buddhism. The
priests live with their families in ruined temples and practice all
sorts of fool things. They have a mystic alchemy, prepare spells and
incantations, and claim to hold communion with the dead. It is said
that worthless foreigners travel about in the disguise of Taoist
priests, just for the money there is in it, as fake spiritualist mediums
travel about in our own country.
"The people coming are Taoist priests, all right, for they have the
drums, and gongs, and fifes of their trade with them. Their ruined
temple may not be far away. If we have time we may witness some of
their foolish ceremonies."
Ned's face looked thoughtful for a moment, then cleared. There was a
smile on his face as he asked:
"Do Taoist priests accost strangers on the highway?"
"Yes; when there is a show of getting money. They are a rank lot, as
you will soon see."
"These may not be so rank," Ned replied, meaningfully.
"'Why," began Captain Martin, "you don't suppose--"
"It seems odd that Taoist priests should arrive here just at this time."
"If these chaps really I are spies--the spies we have been warned
against--the fellows we were sent forth to meet, why, there may be a bit
of action here."
"Well," Ned went on, "let them take the initiative. We shall soon be
able to give a good guess as to what this visit means."
As the four strangely clad figures moved across the little patch of
field which separated the highway from the grove, Jimmie came running
over to where the two were sitting, an egg sandwich in one hand and a
cup of coffee in the other. As he ran the hot liquid jolted out of the
cup and came in contact with his hand.
"Gee!" he shouted. "Just look what's comin'."
Then he dropped the hot cup on the ground and began to dance up and
down, shaking his blistered hand as he did so.
"I got it!" he said. "There was only one hot cup in the lot, an' I got
it! Say, Ned, what do you know about them callers you're goin' to have?
Look like busted washee-washee geeks from Pell street. Look at 'em!"
By this time the marines were watching the advancing priests with
curious eyes. Breakfast was nearly over, and some of the men were
preparing for a brief rest in the shady spot they had found.
The priests, if such they were, entered the grove, passed through the
group of men without a glance to the right or left, and approached the
spot where Ned and the Captain sat. Here they drew up in a line, much
as the fakirs of the East Indies perform, with their crude drams, gongs
and fifes in full view.
"Hello, Sports!" Jimmie cried.
Ned motioned to the boy to remain silent.
The Captain addressed the priests in a couple of Chinese sentences, but
received no immediate answer. One of the fellows, the one with a great
star painted, or worked, on the breast of his gown, soon advanced and
stood directly in front of Ned.
"We have had warning of your approach," he said. "We have been waiting
for you for many days."
Ned started, for the words were spoken in English. The Captain muttered
under his breath:
"I haven't a doubt of it."
"What do you want?" asked Ned.
The four bowed to the ground.
"Attention. The mysticism of the East is open to you if you are brave
"Bunk!" whispered Jimmie.
"Where do you live?" asked the Captain.
The leader pointed to a pile of broken stones at the edge of the grove.
A closer inspection of the heap told the officer that it was what time
had left of a temple.
"Tell him to get busy," whispered Jimmie. "Can he make a tree three
hundred years old in a minute?"
"Where is this mysticism of the East located?" asked the Captain, unable
to get the original notion that they were not what they seemed out of
Again the leader pointed to the ruined temple.
"Come!" he said.
"Now is your chance!" whispered the Captain.
"You are convinced that these are the people who were sent out to defeat
the purpose of our mission?" asked Ned.
"Sure," was the reply. "These fellows are not priests. I don't believe
the chap who speaks is even a Chinaman."
Ned did not hesitate long. If he was correct in his interpretation of
the orders of the Secret Service department, it would be the right thing
for him to go with the strange visitors.
If, as he really believed, they had designs on his life or his liberty,
no better place or time for the test of cunning and strength could have
been selected. It was early morning, and the highway just beyond the
grove was never long vacant of travelers. Indeed, groups of five or six
were constantly in sight.
The travelers were Chinese, of course, and not likely to assist him out
of any difficulty into which he might tumble, still the fact that they
were there was something. Even conspirators do not seek audiences for
Besides, there were the marines. Ned understood that they would not be
permitted to enter the ruined temple in a body, but he knew that they
would be within call.
"What's your notion?" Ned whispered to the Captain.
"Go, and take me with you."
"Of course you'll go if I do."
"And what's the matter with me goin'?" demanded Jimmie, who was near
enough to catch the impression that Ned was going somewhere and was
intending to leave him behind.
"Perhaps the hosts won't welcome three," suggested Ned, in a whisper.
"Such people, like those who present communications from dead friends,
at a dollar per, like to work in private."
Jimmie did not wait to argue the question with Ned. As usual, his
answer was direct and to the point. He advanced upon the priests and
"Will you take me along?"
The four regarded each other in perplexity.
"Come, now," urged the boy, "be good sports. Be good fellers, for
It was finally arranged that Ned, Jimmie and the Captain were to proceed
to the ruined temple with the four and there learn something of the
mysticism of the East! Ned was positive that the time for his test of
courage had come. Still, he did not waver, for he was prepared. The
marines were instructed to gradually encircle the old temple, and to
listen for orders from the inside.
While satisfied that he had now come to the turning point in the case,
Ned wondered, while on the way to the temple, if he ought to take the
risk, whether it might not be wiser to arrest the fakirs, strip them of
their disguises, and take them, by force of numbers, to the embassy at
Peking. Still, if he took that course, he would have no proof against
them--would not be able to connect the fellows with the conspiracy.
The only thing to do was to take the risk.
So, with a premonition of danger in his heart, he turned down the steps
which led to the temple.
For the temple was, as has been said, in ruins. There was a heap of
hewn stones on top of the earth, and that was all that showed from
above. In front a stone staircase led down into a damp and
After a minute's descent Ned found himself in a long, narrow hall, which
had at some time in the distant past formed the lobby of the temple.
There was a cold wind blowing from somewhere in advance, and bats flew
croakingly against it in their retreat from the intruders. Ned heard
the clang of a heavy door behind him. Then the current of air was shut
"This old barn of a place hasn't been used for a hundred years!" Jimmie
whispered, clutching Ned by the arm.
"What makes you think so?" asked Ned.
"If in use, there would be something here to show it," was the reply.
"See, they haven't even got lights here. The ones they are now carrying
were taken from the folds of their robes. And there would be no bats if
the place was in constant use."
"Right you are, boy," Ned whispered back. "But we knew what we were
getting into. Hark!"
It was the dull, rolling sound of a drum that caused the exclamation.
One of the men, far in advance, was evidently giving a signal. In a
moment the shrill notes of a fife reached the ears of the boys.
They waited for a moment, wondering, and then a burst of light came from
some unseen quarter and the four men were seen standing in line on a
rock which lifted above the sloping floor.
"Now for the ghosts!" whispered Jimmie. "Who's first?"
NIGHT IN AN ANCIENT CITY
Frank Shaw and Jack Bosworth, suddenly awakened from a sound sleep in
the little mud shack in the cornfield, in the suburbs of Tientsin, were
not a little astonished at finding themselves rolled deftly out of the
blankets in which they had wrapped themselves before lying down.
"What's coming off here?" demanded Frank, rubbing his eyes and gazing
blankly about the hovel. "What kind of a hotel is this?"
"What did you do that for?" asked Jack, edging newer to Frank. "Why
this midnight industry? What did you pull me out of me covers for?"
"I didn't!" cried Frank. "You pulled me out!"
"Not me!" Jack answered. "I was catching German carp, in the upper
lagoon in Central Park, N.Y., just a second ago. Sorry I woke up before
I got a mess!"
"Who did it, then?" asked Frank. "Some one gave me a thump in the wind
and then rolled me out of the drapery of me elegant couch."
"Search me!" Jack replied. "I got something like that, also. I'll bet
it's the blooming marines, playing an alleged joke! I'm going out to
heave a rock at them."
"Wait!" whispered a voice. "Don't make so much noise, either. You're
"That's Bowery!" cried Jack.
"Come on and show yourself!" Frank commanded. "What are you hiding back
there in the darkness for? Who are you, and where did you come from?
What did you wake me up for, anyway?"
"Black Cat Patrol, Chicago!" was the reply that came through the
darkness. "You're both Black Bears, New York," the voice went on. "I
saw the badges on your vests."
Both boys sprang to their feet instantly. This was something worth
while. A Boy Scout in China!
"Got a light?" asked Frank. "I'll just like to see whether you're a
Black Cat or not."
"Nix on the light," was the reply.
"That's South Clark street, below Van Buren," laughed Jack.
"All right," Frank said, in answer to the boy's negative, "I've got a
"Then keep it out of sight," advised the other. "I don't want to stir
up these soldiers. Perhaps they won't let you go with me."
"Oh, they won't?" Jack grumbled. "We'll see! Turn on your light,
Frank, old top!"
Frank, "old top." turned on his light, and the two saw a boy of
apparently fifteen standing immediately in front of them. He was
slender but muscular, and his red hair and blue eyes betokened anything
but Asiatic ancestors.
The lad extended his right hand in full salute and waited.
"Correct!" Jack said. "Turn out your light, Frank. Sit down, kid, and
tell us why this surprise party."
"I came down to tell you that there's doin's up town," was the quick
reply. "You'd better get a move on!"
"We're ready," Frank said, then, "but we'd like to know what we're going
to move against."
"Your friends are in trouble. That's the answer."
"How do you know?"
"I have just left them at the telegraph office."
"That's where they went."
"Well, that's where they're gettin' theirs," declared the lad. "So buck
"Aw, come along!" the boy cut in. "They're goin' to be arrested, an'
they won't get their cablegram, an' there'll be worse if you don't wake
"You'll have to explain to us," Frank observed.
"You go tell that to the marines!" Jack exclaimed. "They're right
"All right!" the lad answered. "I'm goin' back. You can all go to
Halifax for all me."
"Wait," said Frank. "Where did you get this information you're favoring
us with? What's your name? How did you get to China?"
"I'm a delivery boy at the telegraph office," the lad answered. "I
loafed around there tonight to see you folks, for I knew that the
cablegram would be called for. Before showing myself, I heard what was
going on an' ducked. Now, come on."
"What's your name?"
"How did you get to China?"
"Hid in a ship an' got caught an' beat up."
"A stowaway, eh?"
"You bet! I'd do it again to get back to South Clark street, in little
"What they doing to Ned and Jimmie?" asked Jack.
"Oh, come along!" Frank exclaimed. "The boys may be in need of good
advice and exclusive society! We'll go and see."
"Well," Sandy put in, "this ain't no case for the bulls. You've got to
get to them without makin' any show of fight. You'd be eat up in this
town with them few soldiers."
"What do you propose?"
"Why, we'll go to the American consul an' get him out."
"You seem to be almost human in your intelligence," Jack cried. "Let go
your anchor and heave ahead!"
"We'll have to make good time," said Sandy. "Can you run?"
"We're the original record-breakers when it comes to working our legs!"
Jack said, and the three, after moving quietly through the lighted
circle, so as not to attract the attention of the guard, broke into a
run which fast lessened the distance between the camp and the telegraph
office. At the end of half a mile Sandy drew up against a mud wall.
The rain was still falling, and the boys were soaked to the skin and
shivering with cold, notwithstanding their exertions.
"I'm winded," Sandy explained, panting.
"I'm frozen stiff," Jack declared.
"I'm wet enough to swim home," Frank put in.
"Well," Sandy continued, "there's a little shack behind us--looks like
one of the squatter shacks on the Lake front--an' we can go in an' rest
up. Here's where the only friend I have in China lives."
"Go on in, then," Jack replied, his teeth chattering with the cold.
"We ought to keep on," Frank advised. "This is no time to rest and get
dry when Ned is in trouble!"
"That's right," from Jack. "Trot ahead, little one!"
"I've got to go in here, anyway, an' get my uniform," the boy explained.
"I'll be more protection to you boys if I have it on."
"Protection to us!" laughed Jack. "You're a joker!"
"Hurry up, then, and get it," Frank urged. "We've got to be getting
along toward the telegraph office."
"Ain't you comin' in?" asked Sandy.
"No; we'll want to remain if we go in. Hurry."
"Do you think he's on the level?" asked Jack, as the boy disappeared
through the low doorway.
"I don't know," was the reply. "It doesn't seem as if an American lad,
and a Boy Scout at that, would play a treacherous game against his own
"No, it doesn't; yet what is he stopping here for? He ought to be as
anxious as we are to get over the ground."
Then Sandy came stumbling to the door, on the inside, and asked the
boys, through the rough boards, to come in with their lights.
"There's somethin' mighty strange here," he said.
"This may be a trap!" Jack said. "Shall we go in?"
"We may need this boy as a guide," Frank observed.
"All right, then. In we go."
There was only one room to the shack, which was of mud, with thick walls
and a leaky roof. There was a table, a chair, a heap of clothes in a
comer, and nothing else, save for a puddle of water on the floor.
Sandy stood in the middle of the floor, his feet in the puddle, when
Frank's searchlight illumined the bare room. His eyes were staring in a
strange way and his face was deadly pale.
"Look there!" he exclaimed, his lips forming the words badly. "The old
woman who fed me when I was broke an' sick lies under the clothes,
stupid from some dope. The house has been poked over. I saw a face at
the little hole in the wall as I came in. What does it mean?"
Whisperings were heard at the door. Frank extinguished his light and
the boys stood in darkness as complete as ever fell since the dawn of
"What do you think?" asked Jack, of Frank.
"Looks like a trap."
Sandy sprang forward and seized Frank by the arm, and his voice shook as
"No! It ain't no trap! I didn't bring you here to get rolled for your
wads, or anythin' like that. I stopped here to get me telegraph
messenger uniform. I can go anywhere in the city with that on, and not
be molested. I don't know what this means, but there are Chinks all
around this house."
"Perhaps you've been followed ever since you left the office," Frank
suggested. "Where is your uniform?"
"Gone," replied Sandy, "an' everythin' else I had in that old box in the
Frank walked to the door and opened it a trifle. There was no need to
open it wider to see what kind of trouble they were in. In front,
patient in the downpour, stood six Chinamen.
The flashlight dwelt on the silent row for an instant and was then
turned off. Frank closed the door and stood with his back against it.
"Is there another way out?" he asked.
Sandy pointed to a small door at the rear. Frank opened it a trifle, as
he had the other, and again the flashlight bored a round hole in the
night. There were six Chinamen there.
"They mean to keep us here!" Jack cried. "I'll show them."
"I hear them all around the place," Sandy almost sobbed. "You'll think
I brought you here for this. I didn't! I'm on the square with you
boys. I wanted to help you."
"Perhaps they'll go away soon," Jack suggested.
"Never!" Frank replied. "This is purely an Oriental shut-in! They will
wait out there until the hot summer tans their hides if they are told
to. The patience of the Orient is something awful to run up against."
"But why?" asked Jack.
"Oh, they got next to me!" Sandy observed.
"They want to keep you from goin' to the assistance of your friends.
They'll let you go after they've found some mysterious way of disposing
of the others. If I could get out, I'd go to the camp."
"Dig around! There may be some way of getting out. These slant-eyed
peoples are slant-eyed in their ways. There may be a hole under the hut
that leads somewhere."
"I've seen the woman go down cellar," said Sandy.
"Then you go down cellar," advised Frank, "and see if there is no way
out from there. I'm bound to get to Ned and Jimmie if I have to begin
operations with my gun."
Presently Sandy's voice was heard from below. He said that he felt a
current of air, as if there were a passage leading outside.
"Come on down an' see," he said.
The boys went down a steep ladder, after fastening both doors on the
inside, and soon found themselves on the cellar bottom. Frank turned on
his flashlight and looked about. There was a hole in one of the walls
which seemed to lead downward, in the direction of the river.
"I'm going to try it," Jack exclaimed, taking out his light. "When I
say for you to come on, come a-running."
He said for them to come on in a moment, and Sandy and Frank soon found
themselves in a square subterranean room which must have been cut near
the surface and just outside the wall of the hut. It was a comfortless
place, and they lost no time in looking for a way out.
"Here it is!" Sandy called out, directly. "Here is a tunnel. Say, but
I never knew about this before. Come on!"
Frank led, but proceeded only a short distance. Then his light rested
on the grinning face of a Chinaman.
The tunnel was guarded. The boy turned back and looked into the tunnel
by which they had entered the chamber. Within a foot of the muzzle of
his searchlight he saw the grinning face of another Chinaman.
He stepped back to the mouth of the tunnel and motioned Jack to guard
the exit, explaining, briefly, that they had been trapped, not in a hut
on the street level, but in a subterranean chamber where they could not
be heard, and where no one would ever think of looking for them.
"Oh, no," Jack cried, regarding Sandy angrily, "you didn't know anything
about this--not a thing! You treacherous dog!"
"I didn't! I didn't!" shouted the boy. "Call them men in an' ask them
if I did."
"You wait a minute," Jack gritted out, "and I'll see if the Chinks will
stand quiet while I beat their accomplice up!"
"Quit it!" Frank commanded. "We're in trouble enough now, without
bringing the Chinks down on us. I'd give a good deal to know if Ned and
Jimmie are still alive!"
A VANISHING DIPLOMAT
Ned turned to the Captain as the men in slate-colored robes lifted their
hands after the manner of fake mystics the world over. He was not
uninterested, but he was anxious.
They were now some distance from the grove in which the camp breakfast
had been prepared, and the grove, in turn, was some distance from the
highway. They were also some feet under ground, where any calls for
assistance that might be necessary would be muffled by the hewn stone
and the damp air and earth.
Besides, the alleged priests had mapped out this scene before the
arrival of the boys, as Ned believed. Therefore they might have half a
hundred natives within call, prepared to do murder if necessary.
The marines had been ordered by the Captain to gradually surround the
temple, to guard every entrance that could be discovered, and to force
their way in if anything of a suspicious nature occurred. Ned did not
know the men as well as he knew the Captain, therefore he asked:
"The men will obey your orders to the letter? You see, we are in a box
"They will obey," said the officer. "What do you make of the mummery
now going on?"
The "mummery" consisted in slow, gliding motions, in whirlings about
intended to be graceful, in slow liftings of the hands upward, and in
the beating of the drums.
"I don't make anything of it," Ned replied. "I take it they are waiting
for time. Perhaps they got us in here with less trouble than they had
figured on, and are waiting for confederates."
"What a land!" mused the Captain. "What a way to seek the destruction
of any enemy! An Italian would have stabbed us in the back on the way
in here, a Frenchman would have set a band of bullies upon us in the
grove, an American would have walked up and made observations with his
"This is Oriental!" smiled Ned. "I wish we were well out of this hole
in the ground!"
"I see," began the man with the star on the breast of his dirty gown,
"that you are in trouble of mind concerning the loss of two companions."
"Correct!" shouted the irrepressible Jimmie. "Come across with them--
right soon, old hoss!"
"I see," continued the other, not noticing the interruption, "that you
are here in a weighty matter--a matter affecting the peace of nations."
Jimmie was primed for another outbreak of conversation, but Ned caught
him by the arm and ordered him to remain silent.
"I see," the alleged seer went on, "that you have met with difficulties
and perils on the way. Is this true?"
"All true," Ned answered.
"Then approach. Enter the holy room and receive instruction which shall
be of benefit."
Ned hesitated a moment.
"And my friends?" he asked.
"The spirit speaks to but one," was the reply.
"What a lot of rot!" whispered Jimmie. "You go on, an' I'll be there in
a second if there is anything like rough house."
With a warning look in the Captain's direction, the boy advanced to the
platform of rock. From there he was directed to a door cut in what,
seemed to be soft earth and framed with timbers. The timbers were new.
He saw that at a glance, and drew his own conclusions.
Ned was glad to see that the man who had done all the speaking was the
only one to accompany him into the side room. In a contest of muscles,
he thought he could hold his own pretty well with this fellow.
Ned was prepared for almost anything, but what took place next filled
him with astonishment. The room was just a hole out in the earth. It
did not appear to have been a part of the old temple. There were in it
a board table, roughly put together, two chairs, and a square box,
perhaps five feet in length by one and a half in the other proportions.
As soon as the door was closed the alleged priest threw aside his
slate-colored robe, snatched a wig and beard from his head and face,
and stood forth a handsome man, dressed in the costume of a modern
Englishman or American. At first Ned did not recognize the smiling face
which confronted him.
Then there came to his mind the memory of a time in Canton when he had
watched a meeting of men he believed to be in conspiracy against his
country. This face certainly had been there.
The voice was low, smooth, musical. Ned stood looking at the subtle
countenance, but said not a word.
"You are caught at last!" came next.
Still Ned stood silent, saying not a word, only wondering if the time
for final action had arrived--if the Captain outside was in such peril
as threatened himself.
"Rather a bright boy," sneered the other, "only not bright enough to
understand that men of the world are not to be defeated in their
long-cherished plans by the kindergarten class. Do you know where your
two friends are--the two who accompanied you here?"
"I presume that they are quite capable of taking care of themselves,"
"They are on the road to a dungeon in Peking."
"From first to last," Ned said, "from my first connection with this case
up to this hour, I have come upon only bluffers and liars. You seem to
be making good in both lines."
"Not so rude, kid," laughed the other. "You've certainly got nerve to
address such words to one who holds your life, and the lives of your
friends, in his hand."
"If you do," Ned said, "if you really have the power of life and death
you claim to have, there is no hope for any of us."
"Figure it out in your own way," said the other, "but, so far as the
power of life and death is concerned, you hold the lives of your friends
in your own hands."
"I understand what you mean," the boy replied, "but I'm not for sale.
Go ahead with your procession! Death looks pretty good to me, as
compared with the disgrace of asking a favor from one of your stripe."
Ned's words, purposely designed to enrage the fellow, struck fire at
last, and he said what he never would have said in calmer moments.
"I'll show you that death is not so pleasant a thing as you seem to
imagine!" he almost shouted. "I'll show you how to learn the lesson of
supplication! When the future of a nation is at stake, human lives do
not count. What are the lives of a dozen or more to the prosperity of
millions? You have information which is needed, in the interest of
humanity, and even torture shall be resorted to if it can be obtained in
no other way."
"And so," Ned replied, calmly, "you are not merely a tool. As I
supposed, you are one of the men at the head of the conspiracy. You are
the man I came upon at Canton. You are the wretch who is trying to
involve two continents in war. Well, I hope to meet you under less
The other laughed harshly and walked to the door. Listening with his
ear against the rough boards for an instant, he opened it a trifle and
glanced out. Ned heard sounds of a struggle there, and was about to
spring forward when his captor faced him with a provoking smile.
"By the way," he said, "I neglected to inform you that one threatening
movement will mean instant death to you. I am opposed to any bully-like
display of weapons, preferring to discuss this question with you without
coercion, but I took the precaution to place a rifleman at an opening in
one of the walls of this room. He has you 'covered,' as the saying is,
and so it is advisable for you to remain passive."
"What is going on out there?" demanded Ned.
"Your people seem to be protesting against leaving the place under
escort," laughed the other. "The two you left at the camp in the
cornfield were not so hard to control."
"You seem to have a good knowledge of a our movements," said Ned. "You
have a spy system well in hand here."
"That is refreshing, as coming from the mouth of a spy," retorted the
other. "If you are ready to talk business," he added, closing the door,
"I am ready to make a proposition."
"If your time and your breath are worth anything," the boy replied, "you
may as well save both."
"You have possession of certain documents taken from a certain wreck in
the Pacific Ocean?"
Ned made no reply.
"You possess certain information concerning an alleged plot."
Still no response from the boy.
"Without you, your government can make no headway in the investigation
now on foot."
Ned dropped into a chair and turned his face away with a well assumed
air of indifference. Really, he was anxious for the man to go on, to
say just how important were the papers and the information.
"We have it in our power to prevent the information you possess ever
reaching your government, but the documents you have we cannot get in
the usual way. Therefore we are offering you terms."
"Naturally," Ned smiled.
"Promise to restore the papers and forever remain silent as to what you
have learned since you undertook this case, and you shall all go free,
with more money than you ever dreamed of having in your hands."
"You have not stated the case fully," Ned said, when the other
concluded, with a superior air. "You have not mentioned a certain
alleged diplomat. You want me to forget all that he has said and done in
"Naturally. I said that you were to forget everything connected with the
"I prefer," Ned replied, "to see you on the gallows for murder."
The other started violently.
"Then this is final?"
There came a sound resembling the report of firearms from the outer
room. At the same time Ned caught a movement behind the south wall of
the room. The gunman mentioned by the diplomat was evidently leaving his
post for the purpose of joining in any struggle which might be taking
The boy thought fast for a moment. If the marines had fought their way
into the outer room they would soon be knocking at the rough door that
separated the two apartments. In that case the man before him would do
one of two things.
He would try to fight his way out of the room, or he would try to escape
by some exit not at that time in sight. In the first instance he might
wound or kill one or more of the marines. In the latter, he might be
able to conceal himself in some underground passage and finally escape.
It seemed to Ned that the one thing for him to do was to attack the
fellow and endeavor to disarm him. The noises of conflict in the outer
room grew more distinct, and Ned, observing that the diplomat was
glancing restlessly about, as if seeking some means of escape, sprang
Instead of turning and defending himself, the fellow struggled to
release himself from the boy's hold, and to make his way toward a
section of the wall on the south. The statement that a rifleman had
been stationed somewhere there now came back to the boy's mind, and he
knew that there must be a passage behind that wall.
The man with whom Ned was struggling was evidently unarmed, for he
fought only with his hands and feet. He tried by all the tricks known
to wrestlers to break away from the boy, or to hurl him to the floor,
but Ned had skill as well as strength, and all such efforts proved
While this silent struggle was going on, the rough door came crashing in
and a score of Chinamen, evidently fleeing from an enemy, rushed in and
flocked toward that south wall. Ned and his enemy were trampled under
foot for a moment, then the room was clear save for a half dozen marines
who stood in the doorway, their smoking guns in their hands.
Ned's head whirled from a blow he had received, and there was a numb
feeling in one of his arms, but he arose to his feet and glanced around.
Jimmie stood with the marines, a grin on his freckled face.
"Gee whiz!" he shouted, "how that man did go!"
"Which man?" demanded Ned. "Why didn't some one follow him?"
"He just went through that wall," Jimmie answered. "When I tried to
follow him I bumped me nose! Say, but he went right through that old
"Where did the Chinks go?" asked Ned.
"Down through the floor!" was the reply. "But, say, did you ever see
anythin' like that vanishin' priest? I'll bet a pie he's forty miles
away right this minute."
When Ned and the marines took up the search for the diplomat and the
Chinese, it did seem that they were forty miles away! There were
numerous passages under the old temple, and in these the fugitives must
"How did you know?" asked Ned of the marines who had broken into the
underground rooms. "How did you know there was danger inside?"
"That little imp of a Jimmie," one of the men said, "came to the
entrance and shouted fit to wake the dead. They were trying to carry
the Captain and the kid away. Bright boy, that!"
Two of the marines had been slightly wounded by knives in the hands of
the Chinese, but they declared themselves quite well enough to go on
with the journey.
"The Chinks didn't fight," one of them said. "They just threw knives
and ran! We never hit one of them! Sheep, that's what they are! Just
"Well," Ned said, "we've lost our chance on the road to Peking, the
fellow we want having escaped, so we must go ahead and set the rat trap
"You'll walk if you do," one of the marines said, showing from the
outside, "for the Chinks have made off with the motorcycles!"
SANDY PROVES HIS CASE
"They'll be dead if you don't get out of here an' do somethin'!" said
Sandy. "The Chinks'll eat 'em up!"
Frank looked around the dismal subterranean chamber and a cynical smile
came to his lips.
"We might get out of here," he said, "if we had a ton of dynamite. I
don't know but I'd take a chance on getting injured myself in order to
see these Chinks sailing into the sky."
Jack, still suspicious of Sandy, turned toward him with a frown. The
lad met the other's eyes steadily.
"Do you know the way out of this?" Jack asked.
"No," admitted the boy. "Never was in here before. Never knew there
was such a place."
"Well," Jack went on, "the longer we remain here the longer we'll be in
finding our chums. I'm going to make a break."
"If you have a gun," Sandy said, calmly, "I'll go ahead with it. If I
get plugged, or anythin' like that, you boys may be able to get away.
These Chinks are quick to run if there is danger ahead, and I think I
can scare them off. Give me the gun!"
Sandy reached out his hand, but Frank did not extend the gun he had
taken from his pocket.
"You're nervy, all right," he said, "but you don't have to take all the
risk. Suppose we wait until daylight and then make a rush?"
"Why daylight?" asked Jack.
"There may then be some friendly face in sight, if we are able to get to
"There's force in that," Jack replied, "but this is no palace car to
"You let me go and try," Sandy urged.
Frank shook his head gravely.
"No use," he said. "There are probably a score or more of Chinks around
this old shack. We've got to wait until morning before we try to get
away. The only question in my mind is this: Will they let us alone until
daylight? If they don't, then it will be a scrap."
The boys sat down against the earth wall of the chamber and waited. Now
and then they could hear whispers in a tongue they could not understand.
Occasionally they heard a wagon creaking along the distant street. Then
they knew that the doors connecting the mud hut with the outer world
"I wonder if old Chee is still asleep from the dope?" Sandy asked, after
a long time had passed.
"Why did they dope her?" asked Jack. "I don't see any nourishment for
them in that."
"Guess they thought I'd be apt to help you boys," Sandy replied, "and
made up their minds to catch me and chuck me away somewhere. Chee's a
nervy old lady, an' probably scrapped when they searched for me. I'd
like to help her."
"Why do you call her Chee?"
"Because she's so cheerful, an' because I don't know her name," was the
"It must be pretty near dawn," Jack said, after a long silence, with a
Frank looked at his watch and found that it was six o'clock. It had
been a long night. The sun would rise shortly after six.
Five minutes later sounds of trouble of a physical nature were heard
along the tunnel by which the chamber had been reached. There were
blows, grunts, and ejaculations of rage. Then they heard a voice they
"Donner! I make your face preak! Come py mine punch of fives. Oh, you
"Hans!" cried Jack. "How the Old Harry did he get here?"
"He'll soon be able to tell you himself," Frank said, "if he keeps on
Indeed, the German's voice came nearer every instant, nearer and more
emphatic. He was panting, too, and the sound of blows reached the ears
of the listening boys.
"Get in there!"
The words were spoken in English, but not by Hans.
"There's that gink who rounded us up back in Taku," exclaimed Jack. "He
seems to be winning all the tricks. I wonder how he got hold of Hans?"
"I thought Dutchy was back with the submarine," Frank replied. "How he
got to Tientsin is a mystery to me."
The next moment Hans' broad face, now red from anger and exertion,
appeared at the mouth of the tunnel, looking like a full moon, and then
his bulky figure was projected violently into the chamber. He scrambled
in on his knees, but arose instantly and swung his fists in the
direction of the tunnel, shouting imprecations on some out-of-sight
There were numerous cuts and bruises on his face from which blood was
oozing, and his clothing was torn and dirty, as if it had been dragged
through the mud.
"Loaver! Loaver!" he shouted, still shaking his clenched fist at the
entrance. "Vait a liddle, yet! I eats dern alife!"
"I wish you would!" cried Jack.
"Give me a bite while you are at it," Sandy cut in.
Hans gazed around in bewilderment for a time, and then his face
brightened as he caught sight of Frank and Jack. It did not take the
lads long to arrive at a mutual understanding of the happenings of the
Hans had been followed from the place where he had left the other boys
and captured. He did not know what had become of Ned and the others any
more than Frank and Jack did.
His story brought some relief to the others, for it was presumable that
their chums were now well on their way to Peking. Once there, the
imprisoned lads knew that every effort for their release would be made--
then the whole power of the United States government, through the
ambassador, would be exerted in their behalf.
"But what's the use of all that," Jack asked, grumblingly--for he was
getting hungry! "What's the use of all that if the Chinks sit out there
like blooming cigar-store images and never give a hint as to where we
are? We are likely to starve before the American ambassador can act with
Hans rubbed his stomach protectingly.
"Empty!" he said. "I could eats a Schinks!"
"Eat one for me," advised Jack.
Sandy, who had been listening in silence to the explanations which had
been made, now asked:
"How many Chinks are there out there?"
"Army!" answered Hans.
This was discouraging, for, as has already been stated, the boys were
meditating a rush as soon as the city was astir. They did not
anticipate much help from bystanders, even if they should gain the
street, but they knew that such a ruction as they would be able to put
up would attract the attention of the authorities, and so bring the
matter before the courts.
While they talked the chances over, another breeze of trouble blew in
from the entrance tunnel. An argument of some kind was in progress
between the men stationed there.
Sandy moved forward to the mouth of the dark hole and listened. The
argument was being carried on in the language of the country, but now
and then a few words in English were heard.
"I tell you they got away, slick and clean!" the Englishman said, as
A mumbling of native talk, and then another sentence:
"And some one will be here directly."
Jack, who had heard the words, turned to Frank with a grin.
"Is that a promise or a threat?" he asked.
"I think our friends are coming," Frank replied.
"They can never find us in this hole," Jack complained. "Suppose we
make a little noise?"
"If they are headed this way, they know where we are," Frank said, "and
it seems as if we ought to wait for them.".
"I'll starve!" muttered Jack. "I could eat a fried telegraph pole, and
"I eat since yesterday only plue sky!" Hans contributed. "My pelly
makes argument mit my konscience! But?"
Sandy sat dejectedly by the wall and said nothing. He knew that he was
still suspected of leading the boys into the trap in which they now
found themselves, and was studying over plans to assist them out and at
the same time establish his innocence.
It seemed to the lads that a whole day passed without a single thing to
break the monotony, but Frank's watch insisted that it was only eleven
o'clock. It was dark most of the time in the chamber, for the boys were
saving of their flashlight batteries.
Finally one of the plans which had been slowly maturing in Sandy's brain
brought the lad into action. Noiselessly he crept away from the little
group and moved on his hands and knees, along the tunnel leading to the
cellar of the old mud house.
He reasoned that that point would not be so closely guarded as the exit
would be; also that Ned and his companions, if they returned to the city
in quest of the boys and sought the mud house, would be more apt to be
watching the house itself than the exit, which was some distance away
from the road.
After proceeding a few feet, Sandy stopped and listened. There were no
indications of human presence in the tunnel ahead, or in the cellar,
which was not far away now, and from which a faint light shone.
When the boy reached the entrance to the cellar he saw three Chinamen
lying on the earth floor, either asleep or under the influence of opium.
It did not take the lad long to make up his mind as to which one of the
causes, sleep or opium, had put his guards off their guard.
There was a strong odor of opium in the cellar, and a closer examination
of the place showed him that the watchmen had been "hitting the pipe,"
as the boys on South Clark street, Chicago, would have expressed it.
However, the way did not seem to be clear, for there were soft footsteps
on the patch of board floor which covered a part of the cellar, and then
a Chinaman backed down the ladder.
He came down slowly and stood for an instant on the cellar floor before
looking around. When at last he saw the men asleep on the floor he
muttered some jargon which Sandy could not understand and turned back to
the ladder again.
Sandy believed that the man he saw was the only one the "pipe" had left
on guard. If he could prevent him reaching the street, he might be able
to get the other boys out of the trap in which they had been caught.
The Chinaman seemed large and strong, but Sandy would have taken even
greater chances in order to convince the boys that he was not their
enemy, so he sprang upon him. The struggle was a desperate one for a
time, for Sandy was not very strong as compared with his opponent, and
the man he was fighting with fought viciously.
Sandy did not dare cry out to the boys in the chamber for help, for that
might bring other enemies into the fight. The only way seemed to be to
conquer the Chinaman and then get the boys into the street as silently
as possible. Once there, they would have little difficulty in making
their way out of the city.
It is quite probable that Sandy would have come off second best in the
encounter if Jack had not heard the racket the two made and came into
the cellar with a bound. The two boys soon had the Chinaman down and
well tied up.
"You're a brick, Sandy," Jack said, as the boys faced each other in the
dim light. "While we sat in there waiting for some one to get us out,
you got a move on and did something! Say," he added, with a grin,
"ain't this tie-up game getting stale? Suppose we knock this fellow on
the head? He may get away if we don't. And these others? Think they
are sufficiently soused with opium?"
"They won't make any trouble for a long time," Sandy answered. "It is a
wonder they got into such a trance! There must have been something
stronger than opium in their pipes."